The Other and Identity

Who is the Other? What does it have to do with me? Why should I care?

It’s simple really, although philosophers would seem to prefer it wasn’t. The Other is anything, or anyone, who isn’t you. And it is important because you, yes you, created it and excluded it.
It seems human nature to reject things that aren’t the same as one’s self. Everyone constructs roles for themselves. It is unfortunate that within this process, whether we like it or not, we exclude almost everything because Othering cannot be separated from identity.
When we manufacture our identities it is a two part process. We adopt character traits we think are appealing and reject traits we find unappealing. We attach these unattractive traits to the Other, whether they belong or not. The variables that effect our choices in developing an identity are massively widespread, from genetics through to social systems.

So where does this leave me? Am I some xenophobic, fascist, homophobic? Isn’t there something I can do about that? Fortunately there is. Nothing is permanent and that is very true of human nature. But everyone excludes and becoming more open, empathic and understanding takes a lot of work. Sometimes hard work. No one is born liberal and open minded. We all, secular and religious alike, need to work at it. The Other is not real, it is a bit of a myth but it is a good explanation for why, at one time or another, we relish excluding someone.

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